Curious about stakeholder analysis — what it is, why bother with it, and how you actually do it? Confused by all the info out there and want it broken down in easy-to-understand terms?
This Super Simple Guide to Stakeholder Analysis will equip you with the basic definitions and concepts, as well as touching on more advanced ideas (for when you’re ready to dive deeper).
You’re in the perfect place if you’re a stakeholder industry newbie. But if you work with stakeholders in any capacity (including project managers, communications managers, and executives), this guide will help to build on what you already know and challenge you to up your stakeholder analysis game.
Let’s start with the definitions…
Stakeholders include any people or groups involved in (or impacted by) a project, organization, or action. Some common examples of stakeholders include employees, shareholders, customers, government bodies, members of the public, businesses, and regulatory bodies.
Stakeholder analysis involves identifying who your stakeholders are, working to understand their interest in and influence on the project, how your project or work will affect them, and grouping them based on this understanding.
The concept of “interest” is more than an idea of how interesting your project is to the stakeholder, or how interested they are in being involved. Think of “interest” in more of a legal sense of a right to be involved or consulted. For an infrastructure project this may be legal rights such as a lease or property ownership, or even just regular use of a site. There could also be cultural, social and historical connections with the area, particularly with First Nations groups, which also confers an “interest” in that area.
Each stakeholder has a different level of influence on a project, depending on their ability to impact the process and outcomes.
Each stakeholder may be impacted by the project in different ways — positively, negatively, or a mixture of both. There could be direct impacts such as on their livelihood or ability to work (such as restrictions on access to fishing areas), or on the property they own (such as land acquisition or resettlement). It’s important to consider all impacts a project or work can have on stakeholders, including physical, economic, social and cultural.
Stakeholder analysis is the logical first step in your stakeholder management or engagement process. Here’s what identifying, understanding, and organizing your stakeholders can help you do…
How successful you are likely to be with managing stakeholders rests heavily on your stakeholder lists. If they’re not accurate or up-to-date, you’re essentially flying blind.
Analyzing your stakeholders can help you spot gaps and figure out who’s missing. Plus, it’s the perfect time to improve your stakeholder lists by moving them into a stakeholder management tool, cleaning up duplicates, and updating contact info.
What makes people think and act a certain way? Is it their political or religious beliefs? Their values and demographics? Through stakeholder analysis, you can gain new insights into people’s motivations that allow you to tailor your communication, focus areas, and stakeholder activities so that they’re more meaningful and effective.
Chances are, you’re looking at a long list of issues that could be relevant to your stakeholders. It may not be practical to tackle every issue in your communication and engagement strategy — certainly not all at once. Stakeholder analysis can help you uncover which issues are the most important (and to whom) so that you can focus on these first.
For example, you might find out that key stakeholders care a lot about environmental impacts of the work you’re doingt. Talking more about your organization’s efforts to mitigate the environmental impact of a project could be a good focus area in order to build social license to operate.
The stakeholder analysis process can help you identify who you need to pay the most attention to. Your key stakeholders are those with greater interest and/or greater influence, and it may be critical to get their input on the project, keep them informed more regularly, and build social capital.
We share more about this in our article on identifying and prioritizing stakeholders.
If you’re looking at a list of thousands stakeholders, it can quickly get overwhelming. Where do you start? Who do you start with?
Stakeholder analysis helps to break the list down into smaller, more manageable groups. This can make it much easier to develop engagement and communication strategies tailored to the needs and interests of each group.
Limited time and resources are one of the main challenges for stakeholder professionals and project managers. If you only have 10 hours each week to devote to the project, how can you really make an impact if you have to split that time between so many people?
It’s probably not realistic to speak to everyone individually. But analyzing your stakeholders will help you organize them into groups, better prioritize your resources, and may even free up your time to give individualized attention to a handful of key stakeholders.
Stakeholder analysis can help you demonstrate the resources needed to manage or engage your stakeholders. You’ll be able to show the number of stakeholders, the different groups involved, and the potential impacts of stakeholders (both positive and negative) if managed properly.
Stakeholder maps can be a useful tool for stakeholder analysis because they help to visualize stakeholders based on their attributes and how they relate to the work you’re doing.
Some of the more traditionally used stakeholder mapping models include:
But just because the above models are often used doesn’t mean they’re the best way to map stakeholders. In fact, there are some problems with the historical approach to stakeholder mapping.
We share more about different stakeholder mapping approaches in our blog on stakeholder mapping, but to sum it up, there are two main issues.
Firstly, these models are dated, as power is no longer centrally held. Now, low influence stakeholders can become a very strong force if they network together — something which is easier to do than ever thanks to social media platforms.
And secondly, the language used to describe people in some of the older models is best left in the previous century.
Fortunately, there are other options…
Simply Stakeholders has a new and better way of doing stakeholder mapping. We use the 3 Is:
And most importantly, we track both engagement and Contact Groups based on the above attributes.
We also track stakeholder sentiment. A stakeholder sentiment analysis can help you understand your stakeholder’s emotions. Are they feeling positively or negatively towards the project or a particular issue? How is that sentiment changing over time? You can analyze sentiment by looking at the tone and words stakeholders use in survey responses, call recordings, emails, and other communication.
We talk more about this in our blog on 5 simple steps to getting started with stakeholder data management.
Before you can analyze your stakeholders, you need to know who they are. Start with your existing list (if you have one) and do some brainstorming to see who might be missing.
Mind mapping software or a good, old-fashioned on a whiteboard can be a helpful exercise here. It’s also worth talking to a variety of people in your organization to find out what groups and individuals they deal with, as well as those they expect to come across throughout the project or work. The more perspectives you get, the less likely you’ll miss someone.
Remember: your stakeholders are any individuals or groups who might impact your project or be impacted by it. Plus, anyone you’re required to consult with.
Once you’ve identified all your stakeholders, it’s time to assess and analyze them. The process you use here will depend on which stakeholder mapping method you choose to work with. But you’ll likely look at their interest, impact, power, attitudes, and other attributes.
|Tip: Once you’ve done your initial stakeholder mapping, you might go further by asking your stakeholders questions via a survey or phone call. Useful questions can tap into their communication preferences, motivations, what influences them, who they influence, and what information they’d like to get from you.|
It can take some time to assess each stakeholder, especially if you need to work through a long list of contacts. But it’s worth doing this step properly, as it will set you up for the next step. Plus, it’ll enable you to effectively tailor (and prioritize) your stakeholder management approach, communication, and engagement activities.
After you’ve finished stakeholder mapping, you’ll notice that some stakeholders have similar attributes. These stakeholders can be grouped together, reducing the complexity of your stakeholder list while enabling you to tailor your approach to meet each stakeholders’ needs.
This process will also help you identify which priorities to focus on first, based on the top concerns of your key stakeholders. From here, you’ll be able to create your stakeholder management plan, engagement plan, or communication plan.
Stakeholder lists are not static. Your individual stakeholders and groups will shift over time, along with their attributes, interest, influence, sentiment, and more. It’s a good idea to regularly analyze your list and adjust your stakeholder planning and activities accordingly — especially for longer projects and pieces of work.
Plus, this can help you monitor how your stakeholders change over time in response to communication, engagement, project changes, and the environment. You can use these insights to understand how well you’re doing while there’s still an opportunity to impact the outcome.
You can gain a lot of insights from analyzing stakeholders, including who you should focus on, how to best work with them, when (and how often) to interact with them, and what issues you need to focus on. These insights can be used in many different ways, like…
Stakeholder analysis is the first step in every good stakeholder plan because you can only identify appropriate strategies after you know who your stakeholders are.
Want to learn more about stakeholder planning, including the other steps? Download our free eBook, How to Create a Stakeholder Management Plan.
Stakeholder management is an umbrella term that encompasses a range of methods and approaches to managing, monitoring, and interacting with stakeholders.
Stakeholder analysis can help you understand who you’re managing, the most effective ways to manage them, and what areas might need closer monitoring.
Public participation is also known as public involvement or citizen participation. This approach to stakeholder management facilitates an environment where members of the public (who are impacted by or interested in a decision) are involved in the process.
Stakeholder analysis can help to support accountability in public participation. For example, it can help you identify who makes up ‘the public’ so that you can work towards getting balanced participation across all groups.
Stakeholder engagement is focused on building relationships with stakeholders — including both internal engagement and external engagement. The goal of engagement is to get stakeholder support and/or benefit from their perspectives.
Like other approaches, analysis forms the first step in a stakeholder engagement plan. It can help you identify stakeholders’ degree of interest/influence, and which stakeholders you need input from on different issues (getting clear on this as early in the process as possible).
Stakeholder analysis often forms part of a communication plan. It can reveal useful insights into who you need to communicate with, including:
Since stakeholder management forms a major part of project management, project managers can benefit from analyzing their stakeholders before the work begins. Stakeholder analysis is especially useful for identifying stakeholders you may have otherwise missed. And it can help to identify potential issues and opportunities early on — for example, a manager who isn’t on board with the project, or a champion for change who can help to influence others.
Want to avoid the common mistakes? Our team has been in the stakeholder management industry for several decades now. In that time, we’ve found that organizations consistently trip up with their stakeholder analysis in the following areas:
While starting with stakeholder analysis is a smart move, it’s important to revisit your stakeholder list regularly to keep it updated and monitor for change.
While the Power/Interest Grid is a popular method, it’s not a perfect framework. It’s a good idea to use multiple methods to give you a more complete analysis of your stakeholders. We’re fans of the 3Is: Interest, Influence, and Impact.
Identifying and mapping your stakeholders is a useful exercise that requires time and effort. So maximize the value you get from the insights by using them to shape discussions and develop plans, strategies, and reports.
See more details in our blog on stakeholder analysis mistakes.
We’ve kept this guide super simple, but if you’re looking to expand your knowledge with more advanced concepts and ideas, you might like to explore the following topics.
While we looked at mapping stakeholders based on their attributes, we haven’t discussed stakeholder relationships in great detail. You can use Stakeholder Relationship Mapping to visualize how stakeholders are linked. This can provide additional insights into power and influence, as well as logical ways to group stakeholders.
We’re not referring to stakeholder biases (which you may uncover through stakeholder analysis), but the biases you and your team may hold.
Good stakeholder analysis requires you to be as objective as possible, but this is easier said than done.
Bias can occur at any point during stakeholder analysis for a number of reasons:
Privacy is an important consideration any time you collect data on stakeholders. This means following the relevant local laws, ensuring your platforms are secure, making sure you have the correct permissions, and managing how your team uses and shares information.
Simply Stakeholders is a smart (but simple) stakeholder relationship management tool that makes it easier than ever to visually map stakeholders based on influence, interest, and impact.
Not only that, but our built-in AI-powered sentiment analysis enables up-to-date insights on your stakeholders throughout the entire project.